Referendum Commission dismissed as ‘utterly biased’

The Referendum Commission was accused of being “utterly biased” by suggesting in its information booklet that Ireland’s neutrality will not be affected by the Lisbon treaty.

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), which is campaigning for a no vote, said it wrote to the commission to express concern about the summary of the treaty which was sent to each household last month.

PANA spokeswoman Carol Fox said: “We wrote to them and complained that the major elements of the changes that are being made in terms of the defence and military element of the treaty had not been mentioned at all in this document.”

Speaking at a joint press conference of organisations campaigning for a no vote, Ms Fox said: “There was no mention at all of permanent structures’ cooperation, which the EU Commission says is the most important and new innovation. It is going to allow for mini military alliances to be established in the EU and for core groups of states to be able to go forward with an aim of common defence. That’s not even mentioned in the document.”

Irish Anti-War Movement chairman Richard Boyd Barrett said: “The referendum commission have been utterly biased, as was the document published by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in suggesting that Ireland’s neutrality is not affected by the Lisbon treaty. This is patent nonsense if you simply read the treaty.”

He said article 28 of the treaty sets out the agenda for a more militarised EU: “Although a common defence policy had to be agreed in line with the constitutional requirements of member states, it does not alter the fact that there will be a common defence policy.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said the result of Thursday’s poll, showing an increase in support for a no vote, was “proof that the bullying and hectoring campaign by the government and supporters of the Lisbon treaty has backfired”.

PANA chairman Roger Cole said: “We have to make sure that all those who said they would vote no, come out and vote no.”

Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa, said the Lisbon treaty “fully respects Irish neutrality”.

Speaking at a press conference in Cork he said: “The prohibition inserted into the EU treaties by the 2002 referendum, against Ireland joining a common EU defence arrangement, is carried over by Lisbon. This cannot not be removed without a further referendum in Ireland.”

No campaigners, Libertas, said yesterday’s poll was encouraging but “should be taken with a grain of salt”.

The group’s founder, Declan Ganley, said: “We fully expect that over the next few days, we will see a very cynical campaign from the other side.

“They are losing the battle of ideas, and if they try and make it a battle of personalities they will lose that too.”


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